AMD Athlon 64 FX-57: Sunny San Diego

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Performance Summary & Conclusion

Performance Summary: The AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 proved to be an "extreme" performer in multiple categories. The benchmarks were a clear indication of the Athlon 64 FX-57's superiority for running programs like PhotoShop, or the other applications that comprise the Content Creation 2004 suite, where the FX-57 posted the highest score we have seen to date. Our custom in-game tests also ran very well on the Athlon 64 FX-57, where it again posted the highest non-overclocked framerates we have ever encountered. Only in a few synthetic and multi-threaded tests, like Cinebench 2003 for example, did any other CPU rival the performance of the Athlon 64 FX-57. If you look past the benchmark scores as well however, the Athlon 64 FX-57 was also an excellent performer with regard to its thermal characteristics. Although at 2.8GHz this is the highest clocked CPU AMD has ever released, it requires less voltage than its predecessors to function, and it ran quite cool throughout all of our testing.

We can summarize our thoughts on the new AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 with one word - Fast! In every benchmark we ran, the Athlon 64 FX-57 finished at, or near, the top of the charts. The revamped memory controller, 200MHz bump in clock speed, and SSE3 support clearly all contribute to the FX-57 and make it quite the performer. It seems that this CPU perfectly caters to its target audience. AMD has always marketed the FX line of processors to hardcore enthusiasts and gamers who want the fastest processor money can buy, with the freedom to tweak their systems as well. With its unlocked multiplier and excellent performance in single-threaded applications, AMD has delivered just that, with a tweakable CPU that easily hit 3GHz using simple air cooling. And of course it smoked every other processor we tested in our custom in-game benchmarks.

The Athlon 64 FX-57 also runs much cooler than competitive products from Intel.  It also requires less power and runs cooler than the FX-55 it supplants as AMD's flagship single-core desktop CPU. The new San Diego core, which is manufactured on AMD's .09 micron SOI line, has overall better overall power consumption and thermal characteristics versus any single core Athlon 64 FX to date. In short, AMD's San Diego core does what you'd expect from a die shrink; it lowers power requirements and temperatures while affording higher clock speeds. Finally, as you saw in our overclocking section, this core has some clock speed headroom to spare.

There is something we're not too enthused about through, and that's the Athlon 64 FX-57's price tag. In lots of 1000, the Athlon 64 FX-57 is priced at $1,031. The FX-55's price in the same 1K quantities will remain at $827. Unlike the FX-53 launch, where AMD phased out the FX-51, AMD will continue to sell the FX-55 now that the FX-57 is also available. We know enthusiasts always pay a premium for top-of-the-line products, but we were hoping AMD would take the FX's price down a few notches now that the dual-core Athlon 64 X2 processors have arrived. When you think about it, an Athlon 64 X2 4800+ is essentially comprised of two of the same San Diego cores used in the FX-57, and yet it commands roughly the same price. AMD is clearly marking up the FX-57 with considerable margin. Then again, when you've got the fastest single-core CPU in your product line-up, we suppose you can charge whatever you want for it.

Even though the benchmarks prove the Athlon 64 FX-57 is an excellent performer, before dropping money on a processor like this, you must first assess how you'll utilize the system, to be sure it's the right choice.  If you're a gamer, don't multitask often, and want the best performance possible, the FX-57 is an excellent option if you've got the coin to burn. But if you're the type of user who is constantly running multiple applications, you may be better served by a dual-core Athlon 64 X2 CPU. Plus, as time goes by, and more multi-threaded applications are released, dual-core processors will begin to outperform single-core processors in many more situations. This probably won't be the case for at least 12 to 18 months however, so for now being "single" and in Sunny San Diego is a pretty good situation overall.

_Best of class performance
_Relatively cool operation

_Manageable power requirements
_Overclocked to 3GHz w/ air cooling
_Works on existing platforms
_Less expensive total platform cost
_Hefty price
_Single core CPU

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